Friday 23 April, a Falcon 9 launcher completed a flawless flight from Kennedy Space Centre (KSC) at Cape Canaveral, Florida, orbiting the SpaceX Crew-2 Dragon spacecraft carrying France's ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, on his second mission, and the three other crew members, American astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. The spacecraft is scheduled to berth with the International Space Station (ISS) on Saturday 24 April at around 11:10 CET.
Thomas Pesquet is now en route to the ISS for a six-month mission. The 43-year-old is the tenth French astronaut to fly in space. Previously an aviation engineer and airline pilot, he has received training to fly aboard the Crew-2 Dragon.
Science will be the guiding thread of this mission—named Alpha—during which Thomas Pesquet will be performing scientific and educational experiments on this exceptional orbiting research outpost and stepping stone for future human space exploration.
During this new mission, Thomas Pesquet will be performing some 200 experiments, 40 of them European. Nearly half of these will be monitored by the CADMOS centre for the development of microgravity applications and space operations at CNES. As part of CNES’s contribution to the mission for France, CADMOS has prepared 12 science, technology and education experiments: Dreams, to study astronauts’ sleep; Cerebral Ageing, to understand how the brain ages; Pilote, a visual-haptic robotic control device; Immersive Exercise, where sport meets virtual reality; Telemaque, using acoustic tweezers to handle objects hands-free; Lumina, to measure radiation on the ISS; Eco Pack, a new generation of packaging with three experiments: Renewable Foam, Edible Foam and Freshness Packaging; TetrISS, a student experiment to visualize ultrasounds; Eklosion, a ‘travelling companion’ for Thomas Pesquet; and Blob, to study an unusual single-cell organism. (See the Alpha mission press kit here for more details).
This flight comes the day after Earth Day, a yearly event devoted to environmental protection—a cause for which Thomas Pesquet is a great ambassador. On his first mission, he underlined how fragile our planet seemed when viewed from the ISS and how vital it was to advance our understanding of climate change. His second mission will offer a new opportunity to highlight the importance of observing Earth from space.
Livestream of the docking, in French and English: https://youtu.be/uGz1ARf4QRo